Archive for the ‘The Land I Use’ Category

The Land I Use: Making an Environmental Inventory of East Chicago

April 6th, 2010

The Land I Use: Hazardous Waste Wells On The Southern Shores

March 25th, 2010

[ IDEM's ] site description of ArcelorMittal

via [ Post-Trib ] “Toxic disposal talk gets deep - Underground injection a matter of trust” By Gitte Laasby

PORTAGE — When federal officials allow companies to inject hazardous waste deep into the ground, they take the companies’ word for what kind of waste is disposed and that it isn’t leaking, a federal official admitted Wednesday night.

ArcelorMittal wants to add a new underground injection well at its Burns Harbor plant to dispose of hazardous waste for the next 10 years. The company also wants to continue to use three existing wells, where it disposes of millions of gallons of hazardous waste annually from ArcelorMittal plants.


  1. What obligations does ArcelorMittal have towards future land uses of this highly valuable and ecologically sensitive property on the southern shores of Lake Michigan, a few steps away from the Indiana Dunes National Shoreline and the Little Calumet River?
  2. Is this not the perfect situation for exercising the “Precautionary Principle?”
  3. Does this not serve as an example of the extraordinary where-with-all of vested interests against the humble capacity of a public trying to ensure they live in a safe and vital community?

[ EPA Fact sheet and Public Notice - pdf ]

(Sometimes these maps need a little clarifying. The Deep wells are only a few steps away from the Indiana Dunes National Shoreline and the Little Calumet Rivers. One of the most bio-sensitive and diverse areas in the country, and one of the most impaired.)

“ArcelorMittal has three injection wells operating at 250 W. U.S. Highway 12 in Burns Harbor. These wells inject waste from a steelmaking process known as “steel pickling” and waste ammonia liquor, a product of cokemaking.”

Read more…

Thomas The Land I Use

The Land I Use: Easterly’s Pile

March 15th, 2010

via [ Post-trib ] “Toxicity of pile remains undetermined at site - New test results show waste more toxic than first indicated” By Gitte Laasby

<Drawing Connections>

It ought to be noted that Tom Easterly, IDEM’s commissioner, served as Superintendent for Environmental Services at Bethlehem Steel’s Burns Harbor division. Additionally James Flannery the Executive Director of the Northwest Indiana Quality of Life Council (I can feel the irony), served as the Environment Manager for AcelorMittal and continues to serve on the State of Indiana’s Water Pollution Control Board. Jim also served as Board President for the East Chicago Waterway Management District (E.C.W.M.D.) while I served as it’s Executive Director (how all things lead back to East Chicago).

* The E.C.W.M.D. oversees the Indiana Harbor Shipping Canal (IHSC), the most polluted waterway in the country surrounded by ArcelorMittal, by far its largest user. After more than 35-years since the Clean Water Act was enacted there has never been a project to clean up the waterway. The only project initiated is an USACE project to dredge the canal for navigational purposes only.

</Drawing Connections>

BURNS HARBOR — More than a year and a half after ArcelorMittal first applied for a landfill in Burns Harbor, the company has not disclosed the toxics in all the waste to be landfilled.

The waste — also known as Easterly’s Pile — has been dumped in piles up to three stories tall on open ground a couple hundred feet from Lake Michigan and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for more than a decade.

What is certain is that some of the waste destined for the landfill is more toxic than ArcelorMittal first indicated.

New test results obtained by the Post-Tribune show the waste is one step short of being considered hazardous because of high contents of lead and cadmium.

Read more…

Thomas The Land I Use, The Water I Drink

The Land I Use: ArcelorMittal Seeks New Deep Well

February 26th, 2010

via [ Post-Trib ] “ArcelorMittal seeks new deep well - Hazardous waste slated for disposal at least a half-mile below surface” By Gitte Laasby

BURNS HARBOR — ArcelorMittal has proposed adding a new underground injection well at its Burns Harbor plant to dispose of hazardous waste for the next 10 years.

The company also is seeking 10-year permission to continue to use three existing wells, where the company disposes of up to 240 gallons of hazardous waste per minute from any of ArcelorMittal’s American plants. The company has an exemption from a federal ban on underground disposal of hazardous waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday it is taking public comments and will hold an open house and public hearing on the permits on March 24 in Portage.

The agency plans to approve ArcelorMittal’s request, saying the company showed the injected waste will not threaten underground sources of drinking water.

“EPA found the company has shown the injected waste will stay in deep rock formations for at least 10,000 years, and that it will not threaten any underground sources of drinking water,” the EPA said.

The company disposes of two kinds of waste: waste liquor (which is roughly 99 percent water and 1 percent ammonia) and spent pickle liquor (which is 87 percent water), according to EPA. The waste also contains the carcinogen benzene, suspected carcinogen naphthalene, and other chemicals including phenol, selenium and chromium.

EPA said the lowest drinking water source is 726 feet below the surface (just over 0.1 miles). The waste will be injected into the ground at a depth of between 0.5 and 0.8 miles below ground surface. Between the water and the injection point are about 2,000 feet of sedimentary rock, EPA said.

“This layer of rock prevents the waste from moving up. There are no faults in the rock through which waste might seep upward,” EPA said.

Because Indiana is an area with low earthquake risk, EPA said there is “virtually no possibility of damage to the well or leakage of waste from the injection zone as a result of earthquakes.”

[ EPA Fact sheet and Public Notice - pdf ]

(Sometimes these maps need a little clarifying. The Deep wells are only a few steps away from the Indiana Dunes National Shoreline and the Little Calumet Rivers. One of the most bio-sensitive and diverse areas in the country, and one of the most impaired.)

“ArcelorMittal has three injection wells operating at 250 W. U.S. Highway 12 in Burns Harbor. These wells inject waste from a steelmaking process known as “steel pickling” and waste ammonia liquor, a product of cokemaking.”

ArcelorMittal also has to prove, through periodical surveys, that pressure from other underground injection wells won’t force the waste upward.

“ArcelorMittal has demonstrated that, to a reasonable degree of certainty, hazardous constituents will not migrate upward out of the injection zone or sideways to a point of discharge in 10,000 years,” EPA stated in a fact sheet about the permits.

The new permit would allow ArcelorMittal to increase the maximum rate at which the ammonia waste is going into the ground from 240 to 300 gallons per minute. The company would be allowed to dispose of a maximum 92 million gallons of spent pickle liquor and 157.8 million gallons of ammonia liquor per year. That corresponds to nearly 12,500 backyard swimming pools.

To get a permit, a company must prove that the injected waste will stay in place for as long as it remains hazardous, according to the EPA.

Charlotte Read, a member of Save the Dunes and ArcelorMittal’s citizen advisory committee, said the company talked about drilling a new well five or six years ago, but that the advisory committee had not heard about it for years.

“I’m surprised and disappointed that the company did not see fit to involve the CAC (citizen advisory committee) in it. I’m surprised we were not at least notified,” she said.

Read said she found it troubling that ArcelorMittal would be allowed to accept waste from its plants elsewhere. She also wanted to know more about alternatives to disposing of the waste underground.

“I think taking other facilities’ waste is troubling because you don’t know how it’s going to get there,” she said. “If ArcelorMittal is putting one down now, how are the other steel mills managing without, except for the (U.S. Steel) Midwest plant. Why now? What could be done to avoid building the fourth well and ultimately closing down the other three? I don’t know the answer to that.”

U.S. Steel’s Midwest plant also has an injection well in the area.

The EPA granted the original exemption from federal law in 1990. The permits would be valid for 10 years and the exemption until Dec. 31, 2027.

ArcelorMittal seeks new deep well :: Post-Tribune.

Thomas The Land I Use

Land Use and the Environment

January 20th, 2010

via [ Planetizen ]

For possibly the first time, the EPA has issued a report the directly links climate change mitigation with local land use strategies, says Patty Salkin.

The EPA’s new report is called “An Assessment of Decision-Making Processes: The Feasibility of Incorporating Climate Change Information into Land Protection Planning.

“Says Prof. Salkin, “Although this report focuses only on land preservation programs, it may signal the beginning of some thoughtful and needed discussions in (the) area of federalism and climate change.”

Abstract via [ Law of the land ]

Land protection decisions are long-term, hard to reverse, and resource intensive.  Therefore these decisions are important to consider in the context of climate change, because climate change may directly affect the services intended for protection and because parcel selection can exacerbate or ameliorate certain impacts. This research examined the decision-making processes of selected programs that protect land to assess the feasibility of incorporating climate-change impacts into the evaluation of land protection programs. The research focused on a sample of the LandVote database, which documents land protection ballot initiatives that sought to protect wildlife and watersheds. Of this sample, we reviewed the decision-making frameworks of 19 programs. Most programs use quantitative evaluation criteria and a bottom-up process for selecting parcels. Almost all programs have one or more advisory committees. The  analysis revealed that strategies that might be useful for incorporating climate change into decision making include new decision-support tools for advisory committees, promulgation of different land protection models, and educational outreach for elected officials. As jurisdictions learn more about possible climate change impacts, certain land protection strategies may become more desirable and feasible as part of a portfolio of adaptation strategies that ameliorate impacts on watersheds and wildlife.

Full Report

Thomas Case Studies, The Land I Use, Urbanism

The Land I Use {Regional Rats}: Lead Contamination in My Community

December 8th, 2009

~17% of my neighbors live on contaminated land. ~17 East Chicago’s residential properties are part of a Superfund Site. After more than 20-years of knowledge of the real potential for contamination, and clearing the legal slate of PRPs (prior responsible parties) the site was placed on the National Priority List (NPL) in March 2009.

via [ Post-Tribune ] “EPA Testing Soil for Lead Contamination” By Gitte Laasby

EAST CHICAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is collecting soil samples in East Chicago to find out whether residential yards are contaminated with lead.

The residences are located between East Chicago Avenue and 151st Street and between Aster and Parrish avenues near one of the most contaminated sites in the nation, the former U.S. Smelter and Lead Refinery Inc. site at 5300 Kennedy Ave.

The EPA began collecting samples from front and back yards Monday and will continue for about two weeks. The soil samples are free to residents and all work is done outside the homes.

The EPA held an informational session to explain the testing process and answer questions about the site Monday and will hold another one today.

EPA will also hold a meeting on Dec. 17, to update the community about sampling and clean-up plans. Representatives from EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will be available to answer questions.

The U.S. Smelter site was added to the EPA’s Superfund list in early September. The list contains the most toxic sites in the nation that pose a risk to health and the environment.

The site and residential properties north of it are contaminated with lead. The lead was most likely dispersed from long-removed smokestacks while the business operated between 1920 and 1985. The company recovered lead from car batteries.

In July 2008, EPA removed lead-contaminated soil from 15 homes near the site. Exposure to high levels of lead can cause developmental problems and lower intelligence in young children. Lead exposure can also increase blood pressure in middle-aged men, according to IDEM.

Thomas East Chicago, The Land I Use